Thursday, October 25, 2007

Today, Then and Now

Today is Saint Crispin's day. Did you remember?

In Shakespeare's Henry V, on the eve of the great battle of Agincourt, Henry gives a great speech about how it's Saint Crispin's day, and how all his soldiers will be remembered, and how people will remember them on this day until the end of time. That I remember Saint Crispin's day has to do with what Shakespeare wrote, rather than anything Henry V didn't say at the time. (I have a feeling he didn't speak beautiful iambic pentameter. Was English his first language, or French?)

When I hear politicians today mention how certain things will never be forgotten, I think back to that day in 1415 and how little that huge battle means to most people today. But it meant enough to people of France and England that they were willing to die there, and hundreds did.

The English won that day at Agincourt, and the English and French eventually signed the Treaty of Troyes, acknowledging Henry V the heir to Charles VI.

But Charles outlived Henry, and Henry's son, Henry VI, couldn't maintain England's claim, and so never took the throne of France. (Joan of Arc for the win!) And today, of course, after a couple world wars, France and England are pretty solid allies within the European Union.

Were all those deaths at Agincourt back in 1415 worth it? I don't know. It's hard to think that many deaths in wars are really "worth it," whatever "it" turns out to be. It's really not fruitful to wonder what might have been, back in 1415, but to think on what might yet be, I suppose.


  1. Anonymous11:01 PM

    It's also the day of the Charge of the Light Brigade, in which about half of the soldiers were killed.

  2. We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
    For he today that sheds his blood with me
    Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
    This day shall gentle his condition:
    And gentlemen in England now abed
    Shall think themselves accursed that they were not here
    And hold their manhoods cheap while any speaks
    That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

    Residency was a battle, and every person who I did residency with is, in that way, like a brother or sister to me. I understand exactly the camaraderie spoken to in this speech. This is the beauty of Henry V, and the genius of Shakespeare.

  3. Xensen, WOW, I didn't realize! Two horrible battles. :(

    MWWAK, It's a glorious speech, isn't it? My grad school was much more cut throat and competitive than your residency sounds like; I'd feel more like reciting speeches from *Richard III*.